‘Thanks for asking’: patient-centred research helps drive change
in lung disease treatment
Monash University researchers are giving new hope to people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), with the COVID-19 pandemic prompting some of the first innovations in treatment models in 30 years.
COPD incorporates many different kinds of lung disease and all of them leave you feeling breathless. It disrupts daily routines and productivity and is expected to be one of the leading causes of death worldwide in the next few years.
The condition can be developed from smoking cigarettes, exposure to pollution, different drugs, dust such as coal dust or asbestos, and some genetic predispositions also play a role.
People living with COPD (including emphysema, bronchitis, asthma and interstitial lung disease) have access to a range of drug treatment options, but it is engaging them in rehabilitation programs that can significantly help with their quality of life. However, patient participation has always been low with programs being delivered to less than five per cent of people who would benefit from it.
For people with stable chronic respiratory disease, pulmonary rehabilitation is a cornerstone of treatment. The rehabilitation model conventionally consists of supervised exercise training, education, self-management strategies, and support delivered to groups of patients at least twice a week for eight weeks or longer in either an inpatient or outpatient setting by a multidisciplinary team.
Participation reduces the likelihood of patients being admitted to the hospital, but there are well-documented health-system barriers to participation, including the lack of available programs and a poor referral rate.
However, whole-body exercise training can be a terrifying task for somebody with a lung problem, especially for older patients who might have other health conditions. Travelling to a rehabilitation centre for regular appointments can seem like an insurmountable obstacle to people who are breathless with even small amounts of physical activity. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these problems, as vulnerable patients are shielding at home.
For people who are more isolated, a new remote model of virtual group rehabilitation is proving crucial to their wellbeing.
A recent study led by Professor Anne Holland, Head of Respiratory Research